As Search Engine Land puts it, "local search just got a lot more social for Google."
Why, you ask?
Google Places has officially been replaced by Google+ Places, now known as Google+ Local, which may offer your business a similar experience to that of a Facebook fan page.
Less than one year after Google+ pages were introduced for businesses, Google has finally merged its Places and Pages features into one thoroughly functional entity.
Approximately 80 million Google Place pages worldwide have been automatically converted into Google Local+ pages, so if you haven't checked already, now may be the time to get educated on the differences and gauge the implications the move will have for your business.
The primary change you're likely to notice is the integration of Zagat reviews instead of the typical five-star option. The New York Times notes that Google bought Zagat last year for $151 million, and has now created a functional use for it.
"Getting local search right is important, and to do that you need great reviews," Marissa Mayer, Google's vice president of local search and maps, told the news source. She added that Zagat reviews are the "cornerstone" of Google's new offering.
The Zagat reviews, based on a more flexible 30-point scale, will be available free of charge to anyone who signs up for Google+ Local, and can also be accessed through Google's regular search engine and Google+.
The social aspect comes from the fact that Google+ Local integrated a Circles filter to allow you to find reviews and recommendations for products, services and locations from your friends, family or colleagues.
According to Search Engine Land, the Zagat scores are able to offer more "differentiation and nuance," since they incorporate not only food but service and atmosphere as well. This means more accurate ratings, since reviews tended to gravitate toward the 3.5-star mean in the five-star system.
What's more, Google+ Local pages take a page from Pinterest, creating more visually appealing images with higher photo quality and enabling a wider variety of information presentation.
Finally, in terms of SEO implications, Google+ Local pages will be indexed, so if your business includes keywords in basic listing data, there's a chance it will be vaulted up search engine results pages. Google Places did not carry this feature.